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Study: Tribal casinos bringing in billions to Oklahoma communities

OKLAHOMA CITY – The Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association released the 2016 annual economic impact report for the tribal and gaming industry.

The OIGA 2016 annual impact report summarized data from 2015.

The total economic impact of 2015 was $7.2 billion from annual operations and construction, up from $6.9 billion in 2014.

"One of the main things that was really impressive was that 60 percent of over a billion dollars in payroll was in rural areas. So, smaller communities are seeing job benefits,” said Brian Foster, chairman of the OIGA.

Out of the 27,944 jobs the industry provided, over 66.1 percent were in rural areas.

"I think that Oklahomans and Oklahoma should be proud of the magnitude of the industry. I don't know of any state in the country that has come so far and accomplished so much,” said James Klas, co-founder of KlasRobinson Q.E.D.

Klas, who worked on the report, said this is an industry that continues to grow.

A recent proposal to build a Shawnee Tribe casino in Guymon has been sparking some controversy, because the land is over 400 miles from the tribe’s headquarters.

That land, which has no tribal or historic ties, would first have to be placed into a trust for gaming by the government.

"I would just comment that, in Oklahoma, it's a little complicated to talk about tribal trust land, because most of the lands in Oklahoma aren't traditional to our tribes. So, as a matter of perspective, we need to hold that in mind,” said Kyle Dean, the Director for the Center of Native American and Urban Studies at Oklahoma City University, who also worked on the report.

"When you talk about most of the land not being traditional to the tribes, it's because the tribes themselves were moved here from other parts of the country,” Klas said.

No matter the outcome, though, Dean said the economic impact could be great for the area.

"I think, if you were to put a casino in that part of the state, there is an under served population in terms of entertainment options as well as potential exports to Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico and Texas,” Dean said.

Once the Department of Interior officially announces plans to place the land in Guymon into trust for gaming, Governor Fallin has a year to voice any objections or concerns.